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"Defense of General Funston"
Princeton, NJ, Feb. 22, 1902
Mark Twain

February 22. To-day is the great birthday; and it was observed so widely in the earth that differences in longitudinal time made curious work with some of the cabled testimonies of respect paid to the sublime name [of George Washington] which the date calls up in our minds; for, although they were all being offered at about the same hour, several of them were yesterday to us and several were tomorrow. There was a reference in the papers to General Funston.

Neither Washington nor Funston was made in a day.  It took a long time to accumulate the materials.  In each case, the basis or moral skeleton of the man was inborn disposition --a thing which is as permanent as rock, and never undergoes any actual and genuine change between cradle and grave.  In each case, the moral flesh-bulk (that is to say, character) was built and shaped around the skeleton by training, association and circumstances.  Given a crooked-disposition skeleton, no power nor influence in the earth can mold a permanently shapely form around it.  Training, association and circumstances can truss it, and brace it, and prop it, and strain it, and crowd it into an artificial shapeliness that can endure till the end, deceiving not only the spectator but the man himself.  But there is nothing there but artificiality, and if at any time the props and trusses chance to be removed, the form will collapse into its proper and native crookedness.

Washington did not create the basic skeleton (disposition) that was in him; it was born there, and the merit of its perfection was not his...Moment by moment, day by day, year by year, it stood in the ceaseless sweep of minute influences, automatically arresting and retaining, like a magnet of mercury, all dust-particle of gold that came; and, with automatic scorn, repelling certain dust-particles of trash; and, with as automatic indifference, allowing the rest of that base kinship to go by unnoticed.  It had a native affinity for all influences fine and great, and gave them hospitable welcome and permanent shelter; it had a native aversion for all influences mean and gross, and passed them on.  It chose its subject's associations for him; it chose his influences for him; it chose his ideals for him; and, out of its patiently gathered materials, it built and shaped his golden character.

And we give him the credit!

We give God credit and praise for being all-wise and all-powerful; but that is quite another matter.  No exterior contributor, no birth-commission, conferred these possessions upon Him; He did it Himself.  But Washington's disposition was born in him, he did not create it; it was the architect of his character; his character was the architect of his achievements.  If my disposition had been born in him and his in me, the map of history would have been changed.  It is our privilege to admire the splendor of the sun, and the beauty of the rainbow, and the character of Washington; but there is no occasion to praise them for these qualities, since they did not create the source whence the qualities sprang--the sun's fires, the light upon the falling rain-drops, the sane and clean and benignant disposition born to the Father of his Country.

Did Washington's great value, then, lie in what he accomplished? No; that was only a minor value.  His major value, his vast value, his immeasurable value to us and to the world and to future ages and peoples, lies in his permanent and sky-reaching conspicuousness as an influence.We are made, brick by brick, of influences, patiently built up around the framework of our born dispositions.  It is the sole process of construction; there is no other.  Every man and woman and child is an influence; a daily and hourly influence which never ceases from work, and never ceases from affecting for good or evil the characters about it--some contributing gold-dust, some contributing trash-dust, but in either case helping on the building, and never stopping to rest.  The shoemaker helps to build his two-dozen associates; the pickpocket helps to build his four-dozen associates; the village clergyman helps to build his five hundred associates; the renowned bank-robber's name and fame help to build his hundred associates and three-thousand persons whom he has never seen; the renowned philanthropist's labors and the benevolent millionaire's gifts to kindly works and generous outlays of money move a hundred-thousand persons whom they have never met and never will meet; and to the building of the character of every individual thus moved these movers have added a brick.

The unprincipled newspaper adds a baseness to a million decaying character-fabrics every day; the high-principled newspaper adds a daily betterment to the character-fabric of another million.  The swiftly-enriched wrecker and robber of railway systems lowers the commercial morals of a whole nation for three generations.
A Washington, standing upon the world's utmost summit, eternally visible, eternally clothed in light, a serene, inspiring, heartening example and admonition, is an influence which raises the level of character in all receptive men and peoples, alien and domestic; and the term of its gracious work is not measurable by fleeting generations, but only by the lingering march of the centuries.It was Washington's influence that made Lincoln and all other real patriots the Republic has known; it was Washington's influence that made the soldiers who saved the Union; and that influence will save us always, and bring us back to the fold when we stray.
And so, when a Washington is given us, or a Lincoln, or a Grant, what should we do? Knowing, as we do, that a conspicuous influence for good is worth more than a billion obscure ones, without doubt the logic of it is that we should highly value it, and make a vestal flame of it, and keep it briskly burning in every way we can -- in the nursery, in the school, in the college, in the pulpit, in the newspaper -- even in Congress, if such a thing were possible.The proper inborn disposition was required to start a Washington; the acceptable influences and circumstances and a large field were required to develop and complete him. The same with Funston.
[Which brings us to] The Philippines...

"The war was over" -- end of 1900. A month later the mountain refuge of the defeated and hunted, and now powerless but not yet hopeless, Filipino chief was discovered.  His army was gone, his Republic extinguished, his ablest statesman deported, his generals all in their graves or prisoners of war.Now came his capture.  An admiring author shall tell us about it.  His account can be trusted, for it is correctly synopsized from General Funston's own voluntary confession made by him at the time.

It was not until February, 1901, that his actual hiding-place was discovered.  The clew was in the shape of a letter from Aguinaldo commanding his cousin, Baldormero Aguinaldo, to send him four hundred armed men, the bearer to act as a guide to the same...The insurgent courier was convinced of the error of his ways... and offered to lead the way to Aguinaldo's place of hiding....

[Funston] formulated a scheme and asked General MacArthur's% permission.  It was impossible to refuse the daring adventurer, the hero of the Rio Grande, anything; so Funston set to work, imitating the peculiar handwriting of [the native courier.]Having perfected his signature, Funston wrote two letters on February 24 and 28, acknowledging Aguinaldo's communication, and informing him that he was sending him a few of the best soldiers in his command.  Added to this neat forgery General Funston dictated a letter which was written by an ex-insurgent attached to his command, telling Aguinaldo that the relief force had surprised and captured a detachment of Americans, taking five prisoners whom they were bringing to him because of their importance.  This ruse was employed to explain the presence of the five Americans: General Funston, Captain Hazzard, Captain Newton, Lieutenant Hazzard, and General Funston's aide, Lieutenant Kitchell, who were to accompany the expedition.

Seventy-eight Macabebes, hereditary enemies of the Tagalogs [Aguinaldo's tribe], were chosen by Funston to form the body of the command.  These fearless and hardy natives fell into the scheme with a vengeance.  Three Tagalogs and one Spaniard were also invited.  The Macabebes were fitted out in cast-off insurgent uniforms, and the Americans donned field-worn uniforms of privates.  Three days' rations were provided, and each man was given a rifle...

Arriving off the coast at Casignan, some distance from the insurgent-hidden capital, the party was landed.  Three Macabebes, who spoke Tagalog fluently, were sent into the town to notify the natives that they were bringing additional forces and important American prisoners to Aguinaldo, and request of the local authorities guides and assistance.  The insurgent President readily consented, and the little party, after refreshing themselves and exhibiting their prisoners, started over the ninety-mile trail to Palanan, a mountain retreat on the coast of the Isabella province.  Over the stony declivities and through the thick jungle, across bridgeless streams and up narrow passes, the foot-sore and bone-racked adventurers tramped, until their food was exhausted, and they were too weak to move, though but eight miles from Aguinaldo's rendezvous.

A messenger was sent forward to inform Aguinaldo of their position and to beg for food.  The rebel chieftain promptly replied by despatching rice and a letter to the officer in command, instructing him to treat the American prisoners well...At the Insurgent's headquarters they were received by Aguinaldo's bodyguard, dressed in blue drill uniforms and white hats, drawn up in military form.  The spokesman so completely hoodwinked Aguinaldo that he did not suspect the ruse.  In the meantime the Macabebes maneuvered around into advantageous positions, directed by the Spaniard, until all were in readiness.  Then he shouted, 'Macabebes, now is your turn!' whereupon they emptied their rifles into Aguinaldo's bodyguard. . .

The Americans joined in the skirmish, and two of Aguinaldo's staff were wounded, but escaped, the treasurer of the revolutionary government surrendering.  The rest of the Filipino officers got away.  Aguinaldo accepted his capture with resignation...[asserting] that by no other means would he have been taken alive --an admission which added all the more to Funston's achievement, for Aguinaldo's was a difficult and desperate case, and demanded extraordinary methods.Some of the customs of war are not pleasant to the civilian; but ages upon ages of training have reconciled us to them as being justifiable, and we accept them and make no demur, even when they give us an extra twinge.  Every detail of Funston's scheme but one--has been employed in war in the past and stands acquitted of blame by history.  By the custom of war, it is permissible, in the interest of an enterprise like the one under consideration, for a Brigadier-General (if he be of the sort that can so choose) to persuade or bribe a courier to betray his trust; to remove the badges of his honorable rank and disguise himself; to lie, to practice treachery, to forge; to associate with himself persons properly fitted by training and instinct for the work; to accept of courteous welcome, and assassinate the welcomer while their hands are still warm from the friendly handshake.

By the custom of war, all these things are innocent, none of them is blameworthy, all of them are justifiable; none of them is new, all of them have been done before, although not by a Brigadier-General.  But there is one detail which is new, absolutely new.  It has never been resorted to before in any age of the world, in any country, among any people, savage or civilized.  It was the one meant by Aguinaldo when he said that "by no other means" would he have been taken alive.  When a man is exhausted by hunger to the point where he is "too weak to move," he has a right to make supplication to his enemy to save his failing life; but if he take so much as one taste of that food--which is holy, by the precept of all ages and all nations--he is barred from lifting his hand against that enemy for that time!

It was left to a Brigadier-General of volunteers in the American Army to put shame upon a custom which even the degraded Spanish friars had respected.
We promoted him for it....It seems to me that General Funston's appreciation of the capture needs editing.  It seems to me that, in his after-dinner speeches, he spreads out the heroism of it--I say it with deference, and subject to correction--with an almost too generous hand.  He is a brave man; his dearest enemy will cordially grant him that credit.

...While it is true that [Funston's forces] were not in danger upon this occasion, they were in awful peril at one time; in peril of a death so awful that swift extinction by bullet, by the axe, by the sword, by the rope, by drowning, by fire, is a kindly mercy contrasted with it; a death so awful that it holds its place unchallenged as the supremest of human agonies--death by starvation.  Aguinaldo saved them from that.

These being the facts, we come now to the question, is Funston to blame?

I think not.  And for that reason I think too much is being made of this matter.  He did not make his own disposition, it was born with him. It chose his ideals for him, he did not choose them. It chose the kind of society it liked, the kind of comrades it preferred, and imposed them upon him, rejecting the other kinds; he could not help this; it admired everything that Washington did not admire, and hospitably received and coddled everything that Washington would have turned out of doors--but it, and it only, was to blame, not Funston; his it took as naturally to moral slag as Washington's took to moral gold, but only it was to blame, not Funston.  Its moral sense, if it had any, was color-blind, but this was no fault of Funston's, and he is not chargeable with the would be in the last degree unfair to hold Funston to blame for the outcome of his infirmity; as clearly unfair as it would be to blame him because his conscience leaked out through one of his pores when he was little.

...It was able to say to an enemy, "Have pity on me, I am starving; I am too weak to move, give me food; I am your friend, I am your fellow-patriot, your fellow-Filipino, and am fighting for our dear country's liberties, like you--have pity, give me food, save my life, there is no other help," and it was able to refresh and restore its marionette with the food, and then shoot down the giver of it while his hand was stretched out in welcome...Yet if blame there was, and guilt, and treachery, and baseness, they are not Funston's, but only its...

And it -- not Funston -- comes home now, to teach us children what patriotism is! Surely it ought to know. It is plain to me, and I think it ought to be plain to all, that Funston is not in any way to blame for the things he has done, does, thinks, and says.

Now, then, we have Funston; he has happened, and is on our hands.  The question is, what are we going to do about it, how are we going to meet the emergency?
We have seen what happened in Washington's case: He became a colossal example, an example to the whole world, and for all time -- because his name and deeds went everywhere, and inspired, as they still inspire, and will always inspire, admiration, and compel emulation.  Then the thing for the world to do in the present case is to turn the gilt front of Funston's evil notoriety to the rear, and expose the back aspect of it, the right and black aspect of it, to the youth of the land; otherwise he will become an example and a boy-admiration, and will most sorrowfully and grotesquely bring his breed of patriotism into competition with Washington's.

This competition has already begun, in fact.  Some may not believe it, but it is nevertheless true, that there are now public-school teachers and superintendents who are holding up Funston as a model hero and patriot in the schools.

If this Funstonian boom continues, Funstonism will presently affect the Army.  In fact, this has already happened.  Funston's example has bred many imitators, and many ghastly additions to our history: The torturing of Filipinos by the awful "water-cure," for instance, to make them confess.  What: Truth or lies? How can one know which it is they are telling? For under unendurable pain a man confesses anything that is required of him, true or false, and his evidence is worthless...
You know about those atrocities which the War office has been hiding a year or two; and about General Smith's now world-celebrated order of massacre -- thus summarized by the press from Major Waller's testimony:

"Kill and burn--this is no time to take prisoners--the more you kill and burn, the better--Kill all above the age of ten--make Samar a howling wilderness!"
You see what Funston's example has produced, just in this little while--even before he produced the example.  It has advanced our Civilization ever so far--fully as far as Europe advanced it in China...And the fearful earthquake out there in Krakatoa, that destroyed the island and killed two million people--No, that could not have been Funston's example; I remember now, he was not born then.

However, for all these things I blame only his it, not him.  In conclusion, I have defended him as well as I could, and indeed I have found it quite easy, and have removed prejudice from him and rehabilitated him in the public esteem and regard, I think.  I was not able to do anything for his it, it being out of my jurisdiction...
If I tried, I might also show that he is not to blame for our still holding in bondage the man he captured by unlawful means, and who is not any more rightfully our prisoner and spoil than he would be if he were stolen money.  He is entitled to his freedom.  If he were a king of a Great Power, or an ex-president of our republic, instead of an ex-president of a destroyed and abolished little republic, Civilization (with a large C) would criticize and complain until he got it.